Last Updated on March 11, 2022
A Japanese Pornstar at Issho-Ni Izakaya
It only feels like a few years ago when progressive Japanese and Nikkei cuisine (the fusion dishes created by the Japanese diaspora in South America) could only be found in expensive locations in W1. So it’s exciting to see new and more affordable options opening up and being successful. Issho-Ni means “together with” in English and brands itself as an Izakaya which is the Japanese equivalent of a pub.
Located in the Bethnal Green end of Shoreditch, Issho-Ni is more of a friendly, buzzy local restaurant that serves rather good cocktails that specialises in sharing plates. Founded by pastry expert Claire Su on the site of her parents’ noodle bar, the head chef is Eduardo Aguiar whose impressive CV includes stints at top-end joints such as Roka, Moshi Moshi, and Chisou. The restaurant is a hop and a skip from Liverpool St Station and a short stroll from Bethnal Green.
With brick walls, dark wooden floors and tables, a British racing-green coloured ceiling and twinkling hanging lights, the interior has a stylish, friendly and accessible feel; and, in a cute twist, there are little ceramic cats to lay your chopsticks on.
Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran states that ‘Since all life is futility, then the decision to exist must be the most irrational of all’. I have long found that a couple of cocktails make that decision considerably easier. We tried a Japanese Pornstar, a delicate and fragrant blend of vodka, jasmine, passion fruit, lime and Prosecco with a citrus yuzu twist. The Tokyo Sidecar was a more serious proposition mixing cognac, umeshu, honey, orange, lime and yuzu into a drink of some power with a hint of sweetness taking the edge off the acidity. Of course, drinks need snacks. Hot edamame beans came seasoned with smoked salt and were perfect with the cocktails. Chukka Seaweed was served with nori and was slathered with a deliciously light sesame dressing. With our mains, we moved on to the dry, pear notes of Sake Dewazakura Izumi, a sake that will happily speak to Martini drinkers like myself.
A beautifully constructed Truffle Caesar Salad brought together the crispness of iceberg lettuce with the luxuriant earthiness of a wafu truffle dressing, the saltiness of parmesan and the sweetness of fried shallots to create a wonderful plate.
From the Raw Menu we tried the seared thin-sliced Butterfish Tataki with its truffle ponzu dressing, mince truffle and shallots. The fish was beautifully soft with a lovely mouthfeel and the rich truffle flavour coming to the fore.
Hamachi Usuzukuri – thin sliced yellowtail sashimi – was delicately flavoured and enriched by the truffle soy sauce.
Nigiri is the purest form of sushi. The O-toro cut of the Bluefin is the fattiest and hence the tastiest part of the tuna. Eel (Unagi) was more intense.
Nasu Dengaku is one of my favourite dishes – aubergine, fried and caramelised in a sesame miso marinade – here with a gentle chilli kick and a deep umami flavour.
Snow crab croquettes came piping hot from the deep-fat fryer coated in a crisp panko breadcrumb. Served with a luscious truffle mayo the interior was soft while the outer layer had a satisfying level of crunch.
After this feast a couple of scoops of homemade milk and red bean ice cream and white peach sorbet were perfect.
I would be thrilled to have a local joint as good as Issho-ni on my doorstep and judging by how busy it was when we were there the locals seem to agree. The restaurant has a happy hour from 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday which if you add them up comes to four happy hours which is pretty good going in a week! There’s also a legendary Bottomless Brunch featuring cocktails such as the Bloody Geisha, a Japanese twist on the Bloody Mary and menu options like Salmon Avocado Maki rolls, Chicken Katsu Curry, and Salmon Sashimi accompanied with drinks or Prosecco.
185 Bethnal Green Rd